Yesterday the lazy – ahem – “journalists” (I just died a little inside writing that) – I’m looking at you Jonathan Martin and John Harris – were sniffing indignantly that the President’s convention speech “fell flat” because it wasn’t long on soaring rhetoric, but instead more resembled a professorial lecture.
A surprisingly long parade of Democrats and media commentators described the speech less as a failure than a fizzle-an oddly missed opportunity to frame his presidency or the nation’s choice in a fresh or inspirational light.
Even those who liked the president’s performance generally went no further than saying that he was effective in doing a job that needed to be done, in a tough-minded if prosaic style.
These shoulder-shrug reactions confront Obama with a question no one expected to be asking when the week in Charlotte began: How did a president for whom stirring speeches were the engine of his rise to power manage to give, at best, only the third-most compelling speech at a convention devoted to his own re-election?
The answer is not simply that Michelle Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s performances were especially strong.
It is that Obama made a seemingly deliberate choice to keep his remarks chained tightly to the politics of 2012-a race that has been defined by relentless, almost mechanical efforts to motivate voters with narrow appeals to specific constituencies and to destroy the opposition as a credible alternative.
…and they continue this lazy line of att-hackery (ass-hattery?) for four friggin’ pages, bemoaning the fact that they personally weren’t carried up to the heavens on the wings of Obama’s oratory.
I don’t know how to break it to them, but he wasn’t talking to them. He was talking to my friend Mike and my cousin Mel who live in a rural area that republicans will carry. He was talking to my daughter who has two kids and no time to pay attention to politics the way I do. He was talking to my friends and neighbors and relatives who haven’t been paying much attention so far, who only start watching after Labor Day. It was pointed at voters in swing states who have suffered in this republican-created-and-preserved economic dystopia.
don’t want to be mean, but Martin and Harris are just better-paid and wider-read versions of me, a low-life political blogger. We write for an audience who can’t conceive of just how intently we pay attention to every jot and tittle that comes out of political campaigns and every utterance by low-level staffers for sitting politicians. Normal people look at us political junkies askance, thoroughly convinced that life is passing us by while we’re intently searching for the information that will allow us to understand quantitative easing or derivatives as C-SPAN plays in the background.
Maybe Martin and Harris don’t realize, ensconced in their Beltway Bubble as they are, that we are a tiny minority of the population, that out here in the hinterland of flyover country, the vast majority of people didn’t know that there is a jobs bill that the republicans have kept from coming to the floor for a vote for a full year or why the stimulus didn’t stimulate more (it was too small). The know they keep hearing that the Affordable Care Act is socialism of the highest order and a government takeover of healthcare. But they also know that last month they got a check for a couple hundred bucks because their company didn’t meet the spending requirements for actual healthcare services, they know that their cousin with the special needs child no longer worries about lifetime caps and they know that the neighbor kid who has severe asthma is getting care and finishing grad school because he’s back on his parent’s insurance plan and they know that their own parents have been helped by the closing of the donut hole in Medicare Part D.
Those people are who President Obama was addressing. Not the Beltway Punditocracy. And they heard exactly what they needed to hear…But it wasn’t for the personal edification of John Harris or Jonathan Martin.
Given the audience it was aimed at, it was quite successful. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check this Buzzfeed headline – and the screen grabs beneath it: Obama’s Message Breaks Through in Swing State Newspapers. An emphasis on the path forward. Lukewarm reception to his speech from pundits doesn’t make the headlines.